Evangelists on Every Corner

(This column first appeared in Vol. 6-2 of the Panacea Perspective, circa November, 1994)

It started a few years ago. Certain large companies such as Apple and Microsoft started blessing key employees with the spiritual title of “Evangelist”. It was the Evangelist’s mission to go forth and spread the gospel of whatever product and/or philosophy the company wanted the masses to worship.

At first, it was a novelty. You’d get a business card, read the title (“Software Evangelist”, etc.) and a beatific smile would form on your face, expressing a sentiment similar to that of your grandmother about to pinch your cheeks and tell you how much you’ve grown since she’s last seen you. In other words, it was cute.

But, as time has shown with Barney the Purple Dinosaur, even cuteness has its limits when it goes ballistic and is perpetually “in your face”. Nowadays, it seems like everyone has an evangelical title of some sort. The irony of the whole thing is that in the 80s, evangelists (of the television kind) were perpetually paraded in front of us as examples of the depravity of human nature. Do we really want technology evangelists associated with the likes of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Oral Roberts, or Jimmy Swaggert?

What does the title of Evangelist really mean in our industry? A quote from a recent elevated Microsoft evangelist was “Whenever Microsoft designates a person to be an evangelist in a given technology, it means that Microsoft intends to dominate that technology area in the near future.” That’s an uncommonly honest and blunt definition, but it does say it all.

However, with the blatant overuse of the Evangelist title, it’s not clear that all companies who employ evangelists have the position as clearly defined as Microsoft. So, as a means to allow companies with differing philosophies to better categorize there employees, we’d like to suggest the following new generation of secular/semi-secular technology titles (imagine them preceded by “Software”, “Hardware”, etc.):

  • Agnostic – Believes in the concept of the technology but not necessarily the implementation. An example would be someone who believes in 32-bit operating systems, but doesn’t really believe in Windows NT, Windows 95, or OS/2 as the proper solution.
  • Anarchist – Believes in whatever seems appropriate at the moment, especially if other people don’t believe in it. May get violent if lots of others actively disagree with them. Amiga fans and people who promote hardware locks fall into this category.
  • Atheist – Doesn’t believe in the technology at all and can’t understand why anyone actually does believe. Workstation Evangelists tend to be PC Atheists.
  • Believer – Someone converted by an Evangelist or the like. Probably brainwashed to the point that they don’t question anything – they accept what they are told without needing supporting facts.
  • Buddhist – Believes in all technologies, and that with time and inner awareness all technologies will ultimately become one. One could argue that Bill Gates could be deemed part-Buddhist as he believes that all technologies will ultimately become Microsoft’s.
  • Communist – Feels that all technology belongs to a single entity, no matter who actually developed it, and that the entity should use such technology to benefit the entity, which should benefit all those associated with the entity. Software pirates occasionally are part of this category.
  • Deity – This is the most knowledgeable person, world- wide, in a given technology field. No one else comes close to that person. This should be an earned position, over  many years of effort, and not given lightly. Sometimes also referred to as God.
  • Democrat – Believes that no matter what the technology is (although it tends to be quite bulky and ill-defined), it should cost more than it brings in, while being freely available to any group of people who claim that they need it, as long as they aren’t rich. Such technology should also be administered by as many people as possible. Coincidentally, the National Information Infrastructure seems to fit the type of technology a Democrat would promote.
  • Gadfly – Is excited about every new technology that comes along, but just for a brief period of time (i.e. until the next cool technology is presented). However, during the brief period of excitement, they evangelize with the best of the dedicated Evangelists. Editors and writers for computer publications are frequently Gadflies.
  • Hippie – Truly feels that all technology should be freely available to all those who want it, and everyone should be happy as a result. Ever hear of the Free Software Foundation and GNU?
  • Libertarian – Doesn’t care what technology anyone else believes in or promotes as long it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s way of life. Libertarians are proud of the fact that they still use DOS and don’t buy the latest upgrades.
  • Luddite – Fears all technology and wants to see it destroyed. These people are all either locked up or lurking just around the corner.
  • Mercenary – Will evangelize any technology for a reward, usually monetary. Could be one technology one day, and a competing technology the next. Mercenaries frequently take the guise of independent PR & marketing professionals, although some employees have been known to assume the role as well, usually with disastrous results for the employer.
  • Nihilist – Wants to destroy all technology for the sake of its destruction. May pair with the Luddite for convenience’s sake. Needless to say, you don’t want a Nihilist working for you.
  • Preacher – An Evangelist in training.
  • Prophet – An Evangelist whose technologies have time and time again becoming the leading technologies in the market on their own merit. There’s also the False Prophet, who has managed to evangelize leading technologies by coercion instead of merit, and done so many times (see Terrorist).
  • Republican – Believes that while technology can be a good thing, it’s best not to rush things too much. Technologies should be thoroughly analyzed to make sure that  they are safe to start using, and should be administered by lots of smaller disparate groups that should be able to communicate with one another. COBOL is still widely used because of Republicans. Opposite of the Democrat.
  • Scrooge – Favorite line is “bah-humbug” in response to a question about the latest technologies. Also known as an un-Believer. Opposite of the Gadfly.
  • Terrorist – An Evangelist that’s gone over the edge in trying to convert the faithful to his or her technology. Uses market pressure, coercion, threats, and unethical means to force people to adopt his or her view. This title may also be applied to marketing and sales people, as the Terrorist does not need to really have a technical background. Terrorists may also be Mercenaries.
  • Worshipper – A Believer that is too far gone to even consider questioning reality, even as it changes around them. Fans of Gadflies are sometimes Worshippers.

This should certainly provide business card printers with a new wealth of business.